Lorenzo Ruiz – also known as Laurentius Ruiz de Manila or San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila – was a married layman, with a daughter and two sons, an alleged murderer, and finally the first canonized Filipino martyr. He was born around 1600 at Binondo, Manila, in the Philippines. His mother was Filipino and his father Chinese, and both were Christians. He was skilled in Tagalog, Chinese and Spanish, and served the Dominican missionaries as a transcriber, sacristan and altar server.
Lorenzo was an accidental yet heroic martyr. For reasons that are not known, he had been falsely accused – perhaps of murder – by the Spanish in Manila. His Dominican friends then arranged for him to join a ship that was carrying a group of missionaries. The ship was sailing to Formosa and then to Japan, and this was during a time of violent persecution of Japanese Christians.
Lorenzo stayed with the missionaries and landed with them at Okinawa in Japan. They were soon captured and taken to Nagasaki, where they were tortured for several days. It is said that Lorenzo broke under torture and was about to renounce his faith, but that he then refused to do so. He and his companions were executed in a most cruel way, being weighted with stones and hung upside down over a pit. Lorenzo died on 29 September 1637. His body was burned and his ashes were thrown into the sea.
His companions on the ship were St Antonio Gonzalez, St Guillermo Courtet, and St Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named St Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Another ten Christians were martyred with them. St Lorenzo and his 16 companions were beatified by John Paul II in 1981 and canonised in 1987. For everyday Christians around the world his life is a story of an ordinary person willing to give his life for God.